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While anti-immigrant groups have long proposed amending or reinterpreting the 14th Amendment to eliminate birthright citizenship, the issue gained new visibility lately when Arizona Senator John Kyl proposed hearings on the subject and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, among others, expressed support. In this moment, there’s a need and an opportunity to promote preservation of the 14th Amendment and it’s principles, as well as positive approaches to immigration reform. In doing so, communications research and experience suggest the following principles:
Sample Talking Points
“There’s no evidence that this is even happening in any real way, but more importantly, we can’t undermine who we are as a country and as a people for short-term political purposes. Instead of tampering with our Constitution, let’s move forward with commonsense immigration reform that’s languishing in Congress.”
“In addition to being wrong for America, this is not a realistic proposal. Even if two-thirds of both houses of Congress and three-fourths of the states were to somehow agree on this, it would visit unimaginable difficulty on all 300,000,000 of us who are American citizens. Today, when your kids are born here, you know, and everyone knows, that they are American citizens. But what if when your child was born you had to go through an application process, prove to federal, state, and local bureaucracy that you are a citizen, be entered in a database that is subject to error and delay? It would be expensive, burdensome, slow, inaccurate, and totally unacceptable to the American people.”
“These members of Congress have clear, practical options for fixing our broken immigration system through commonsense immigration reform. We need smarter control of the border and a system for the 12 million undocumented immigrants who live here to pay all taxes, learn English, register, and begin an orderly path to citizenship. That’s what Congress should be focusing on.”
"The 14th Amendment was and is crucial to making us one nation, indivisible. Decimating that principle would be a grave mistake, and would threaten the freedom of all Americans."
A sample of public opinion findings on this subject shows a public that leans against citizenship based on birth in the U.S. for the children of undocumented immigrants, but largely opposes amending our Constitution to eliminate that practice. In addition, few Americans are familiar with the text or history of the 14th Amendment.
Additional Facts and Resources
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The Opportunity Agenda is a project of Tides Center